The Seattle Mariners offense exploded for 8 runs tonight giving starting pitcher Cliff Lee more than enough run support to beat the Chicago Cubs 8-1. The win gave the surging Mariners their sixth victory in a row against the dejected Cubs who despite spending 140 million dollars on payroll are quickly falling out of contention. Cliff Lee allowed the Cubs 9 hits including a solo home run in the second inning to Tyler Colvin on a night where Lee pitched his way out of several jams. Lee failed once again to allow a walk and fanned 9 Cubs on his way to his fourth complete game of the season. The crafty veteran Lee was a pitch ahead of the hapless Cubs all night mixing in his wicked breaking ball with his fastball in an unpredictable fashion. On a night when you could say he didn’t have his best stuff, Lee used his cunning and experience to keep the Cubs guessing.
The big story tonight was the Mariners bats which came alive allowing the Mariners to score more than 5 runs for the first time since beating the Twins 7-1 nineteen games ago. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth the M’s loaded the bases for Casey Kotchman who delivered a single to left tying the game up 1-1.Rob Johnson went down on strikes and with 2-outs the young Canadian Michael Saunders picked up the 1st of his 4 RBI’s with a walk. Ichiro then finished of the scoring with a single to score Josh Wilson and the lumbering Kotchman from second, to hand Cliff Lee a 4-1 lead. Lee quickly mowed down the Cubs in the top of the fifth striking out Soriano and Castro. In the top of the sixth the Cubs got the first two batters on and threatened to get back into it, but again Lee closed out the inning with a couple of his 9 k’s and some good defense by Jose Lopez at third. The M’s added a couple more insurance runs in the sixth when Saunders drove in Rob Johnson with a line drive double to right. Ichiro then laid-down a beautiful bunt to advance Saunders to third allowing, Chone Figgins to bring him home on a weak groundball. It was refreshing to see the club move runners around tonight and they were 5-10 with RISP.
The infield had three double plays on the night to help out Lee in key situations. Interesting to note that Josh Wilson got the start at short and played well there as well as picking up a couple of hits. Something special is going on here and I think Wakamatsu doesn’t want to mess with the chemistry too much. Wak even let the struggling Milton Bradley stay in the line-up despite having Mike Sweeney available. True to form the Cubs fans rode Bradley all night so perhaps Wakamatsu is letting Bradley face his demons so to speak.
In the eighth inning Michael Saunders connected for a 2-run blast his 5th of the year and though I have taken a wait and see attitude with the lanky youngster, I think he may just be a good fit for this club. It was once again inspiring to watch Cliff Lee run out to the mound in the late innings just like a kid who loves to play the game and doesn’t want to give his manager a chance to tell him he can’t go back on the field. Lee is definitely a throw-back to a different era and I think his hustle and focus are setting a great example for the young guys like Vargas and Saunders. At this point it seems like it would be a shame to lose Cliff Lee for in addition to his stellar performances on the mound he is setting the tone for the next era of Mariners baseball-Thanks Cliff!
So the bad news on the night is that Texas won again and are now 17-4 in June leaving the Mariners in their familiar spot of 13 back. On a positive note the Oakland A’s lost and are 10 ½ back so we need to keep our nose to the grindstone and make sure we catch them by the All-Star break. Tomorrow we go for back-to-back sweeps with Felix Hernandez on the mound for a 1240 start on what will hopefully be another beautiful NW day. I don’t know about you but I’m heading down to the Safe with a Wisk- broom to help cheer for a sweep!
The Article Can Be Found on Jeff's Mariners Fan Blog